Once inside the casino I could see that (much like my life) things hadn’t changed since the last time I’d brought Miss Cathy to gamble.
For an early afternoon on a week-day the place was kinda full; the elderly, retirees (or people who may have been unemployed for all I know, taking a risk with the last of their savings), tourists and a gaggle or two of folks my age or younger, all looking like they’re the ones that are going to ‘beat the house’ and leave with more than they came.
Still, I could smell the desperation waffling off people as I slogged through the noise and smoke (thanks to Maryland’s Gov. O’Malley for not pushing a ban on cigarettes in establishments such as this) with mom toddling along beside me, each step a declaration of war against gravity.
For Miss Cathy, walking has become a battle she looks to be losing but is denial as to how badly things are going, surrender not an option, very much like George W. Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan when he was Commander in Chief (except in mom’s case, ‘surrender’ would mean giving up her cane for a walker and not admitting that thousands died in one war that was unnecessary to protect our country and the other failing if that was indeed the mission).
The fifty-cent slot machines that she loves to play were positioned off to the left where the main thoroughfare split, near the new blackjack, craps and roulettes tables that were recently added to the casino to attract even more patrons with a dollar(s) and a dream.
The slots weren’t far from the entrance but they may as well have been the length of a football field for all the time it took us to get there.
When I first started bringing mom to the casino more than three years ago I felt like her chauffer and body guard; standing nearby (but not too close as to make whomever was sitting next her feel nervous by my presence) as she concentrated on indulging her gambling addiction. I would people watch; collect her winnings (if there were any) play games or text on my iPhone.
Over time I found that I was needed alittle more and then a lot.
It’s gotten to the point that I’m now sitting next to her; loading her club card, feeding the money into the machine and instructing her as to where the buttons or levers are and the monetary risk involved and where the various cherries and bars line up above or below the ‘winning line’ each time she plays.
She’s like “The Who’s” Tommy, who ‘sure loved to play pinball’ except Miss Cathy can hear the buzzers and bells.
Watching her as she’s playing; spellbound by the swirling colors, the lights, the Muzax playing overhead and sounds coming from the slot machine itself, she looks to be as happy and ‘herself’ as I’ve seen her since the Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
So no matter the outcome of the game she’s already won in my eyes.